A History of the Japanese People - From the Earliest Times to the End of the Meiji Era
by Frank Brinkley and Dairoku Kikuchi
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From the Earliest Times to the End of the Meiji Era



Editor of the "Japan Mail"

With the Collaboration of BARON KIKUCHI

Former President of the Imperial University at Kyoto

With 150 Illustrations Engraved on Wood by Japanese Artists; Half-Tone Plates, and Maps



It is trite to remark that if you wish to know really any people, it is necessary to have a thorough knowledge of their history, including their mythology, legends and folk-lore: customs, habits and traits of character, which to a superficial observer of a different nationality or race may seem odd and strange, sometimes even utterly subversive of ordinary ideas of morality, but which can be explained and will appear quite reasonable when they are traced back to their origin. The sudden rise of the Japanese nation from an insignificant position to a foremost rank in the comity of nations has startled the world. Except in the case of very few who had studied us intimately, we were a people but little raised above barbarism trying to imitate Western civilisation without any capacity for really assimilating or adapting it. At first, it was supposed that we had somehow undergone a sudden transformation, but it was gradually perceived that such could not be and was not the case; and a crop of books on Japan and the Japanese, deep and superficial, serious and fantastic, interesting and otherwise, has been put forth for the benefit of those who were curious to know the reason of this strange phenomenon. But among so many books, there has not yet been, so far as I know, a history of Japan, although a study of its history was most essential for the proper understanding of many of the problems relating to the Japanese people, such as the relation of the Imperial dynasty to the people, the family system, the position of Buddhism, the influence of the Chinese philosophy, etc. A history of Japan of moderate size has indeed long been a desideratum; that it was not forthcoming was no doubt due to the want of a proper person to undertake such a work. Now just the right man has been found in the author of the present work, who, an Englishman by birth, is almost Japanese in his understanding of, and sympathy with, the Japanese people. It would indeed be difficult to find any one better fitted for the task—by no means an easy one—of presenting the general features of Japanese history to Western readers, in a compact and intelligible form, and at the same time in general harmony with the Japanese feeling. The Western public and Japan are alike to be congratulated on the production of the present work. I may say this without any fear of reproach for self-praise, for although my name is mentioned in the title-page, my share is very slight, consisting merely in general advice and in a few suggestions on some special points.


KYOTO, 1912.


During the past three decades Japanese students have devoted much intelligent labour to collecting and collating the somewhat disjointed fragments of their country's history. The task would have been practically impossible for foreign historiographers alone, but now that the materials have been brought to light there is no insuperable difficulty in making them available for purposes of joint interpretation. That is all I have attempted to do in these pages, and I beg to solicit pardon for any defect they may be found to contain.


TOKYO, 1912.



I. The Historiographer's Art in Old Japan

II. Japanese Mythology

III. Japanese Mythology (Continued)

IV. Rationalization

V. Origin of the Japanese Nation: Historical Evidences

VI. Origin of the Nation: Geographical and Archaeological Relics

VII. Language and Physical Characteristics

VIII. Manners and Customs in Remote Antiquity

IX. The Prehistoric Sovereigns

X. The Prehistoric Sovereigns (Continued)

XI. The Prehistoric Sovereigns (Continued)

XII. The Protohistoric Sovereigns

XIII. The Protohistoric Sovereigns (Continued)

XIV. From the 29th to the 35th Sovereign

XV. The Daika Reforms

XVI. The Daiho Laws and the Yoro Laws

XVII. The Nara Epoch

XVIII. The Heian Epoch

XIX. The Heian Epoch (Continued)

XX. The Heian Epoch (Continued)

XXI. The Capital and the Provinces

XXII. Recovery of Administrative Authority by the Throne

XXIII. Manners and Customs of the Heian Epoch

XXIV. The Epoch of the Gen (Minamoto) and the Hei (Taira)

XXV. The Epoch of the Gen and the Hei (Continued)

XXVI. The Kamakura Bakufu

XXVII. The Hojo

XXVIII. Art, Religion, Literature, Customs, and Commerce in the Kamakura Period

XXIX. Fall of the Hojo and Rise of the Ashikaga

XXX. The War of the Dynasties

XXXI. The Fall of the Ashikaga

XXXII. Foreign Intercourse, Literature, Art, Religion, Manners, and Customs in the Muromachi Epoch

XXXIII. The Epoch of Wars (Sengoku Jidai)

XXXIV. Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu

XXXV. The Invasion of Korea

XXXVI. The Momo-Yama Epoch

XXXVII. Christianity in Japan

XXXVIII. The Tokugawa Shogunate

XXXIX. First Period of the Tokugawa Bakufu; from the First Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu, to the Fourth, Ietsuna (1603-1680)

XL. Middle Period of the Tokugawa Bakufu; from the Fifth Shogun, Tsunayoshi, to the Tenth Shogun, Ieharu (1680-1786)

XLI. The Late Period of the Tokugawa Bakufu. The Eleventh Shogun,Ienari (1786-1838)

XLII. Organization, Central and Local; Currency and the Laws of the Tokugawa Bakufu

XLIII. Revival of the Shinto Cult

XLIV. Foreign Relations and the Decline of the Tokugawa

XLV. Foreign Relations and the Decline of the Tokugawa (Continued)

XLVI. The Meiji Government

XLVII. Wars with China and Russia


1. Constitution of Japan, 1889

2. Anglo-Japanese Agreement, 1905

3. Treaty of Portsmouth, 1905



Japan about 1337: Northern and Southern Courts

Japan in Era of Wars, 1577: Distribution of Fiefs

Japan in 1615: Feudatories

Japan, Korea and the Mainland of Asia


Capt. F. Brinkley, R. A.

The Emperor Jimmu

The Shrine of Ise

Prehistoric Remains: Plate A

Prehistoric Remains: Plate B

Prince Shotoku

Kaigen Ceremony of the Nara Daibutsu

Thirty-six Versifiers (Painting by Korin)

Cherry-Viewing Festival at Mukojima

Kamakura Daibutsu

Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion)

Court Costumes

Tokugawa Shrine at Nikko

The Emperor Meiji (Mutsuhito)

Sinking of the Russian Battleship Osliabya

Admiral Togo






IN the earliest eras of historic Japan there existed a hereditary corporation of raconteurs (Katari-be) who, from generation to generation, performed the function of reciting the exploits of the sovereigns and the deeds of heroes. They accompanied themselves on musical instruments, and naturally, as time went by, each set of raconteurs embellished the language of their predecessors, adding supernatural elements, and introducing details which belonged to the realm of romance rather than to that of ordinary history. These Katari-be would seem to have been the sole repository of their country's annals until the sixth century of the Christian era. Their repertories of recitation included records of the great families as well as of the sovereigns, and it is easy to conceive that the favour and patronage of these high personages were earned by ornamenting the traditions of their households and exalting their pedigrees. But when the art of writing was introduced towards the close of the fourth century, or at the beginning of the fifth, and it was seen that in China, then the centre of learning and civilization, the art had been applied to the compilation of a national history as well as of other volumes possessing great ethical value, the Japanese conceived the ambition of similarly utilizing their new attainment. For reasons which will be understood by and by, the application of the ideographic script to the language of Japan was a task of immense difficulty, and long years must have passed before the attainment of any degree of proficiency.

Thus it was not until the time of the Empress Suiko (593-628) that the historical project took practical shape. Her Majesty, at the instance, doubtless, of Prince Shotoku, one of the greatest names in all Japan's annals, instructed the prince himself and her chief minister, Soga no Umako, to undertake the task of compiling historical documents, and there resulted a Record of the Emperors (Tennoki), a Record of the Country (Koki), and Original Records (Hongi) of the Free People (i.e., the Japanese proper as distinguished from aliens, captives, and aborigines), of the great families and of the 180 Hereditary Corporations (Be). This work was commenced in the year 620, but nothing is known as to the date of its completion. It represents the first Japanese history. A shortlived compilation it proved, for in the year 645, the Soga chiefs, custodians of the documents, threw them into the fire on the eve of their own execution for treason. One only, the Record of the Country, was plucked from the flames, and is believed to have been subsequently incorporated in the Kojiki '(Records of Ancient Things).' No immediate attempt seems to have been made to remedy the loss of these invaluable writings. Thirty-seven years later the Emperor Temmu took the matter in hand. One of his reasons for doing so has been historically transmitted. Learning that "the chronicles of the sovereigns and the original words in the possession of the various families deviated from the truth and were largely amplified with empty falsehoods," his Majesty conceived that unless speedy steps were taken to correct the confusion and eliminate the errors, an irremediable state of affairs would result.

Such a preface prepares us to learn that a body of experts was appointed to distinguish the true and the false, and to set down the former alone. The Emperor did, in fact, commission a number of princes and officials to compile an authentic history, and we shall presently see how their labours resulted. But in the first place a special feature of the situation has to be noted. The Japanese language was then undergoing a transition. In order to fit it to the Chinese ideographs for literary purposes, it was being deprived of its mellifluous polysyllabic character and reduced to monosyllabic terseness. The older words were disappearing, and with them many of the old traditions. Temmu saw that if the work of compilation was abandoned solely to princely and official litterateurs, they would probably sacrifice on the altar of the ideograph much that was venerable and worthy to be preserved. He therefore himself undertook the collateral task of having the antique traditions collected and expurgated, and causing them to be memorized by a chamberlain, Hiyeda no Are, a man then in his twenty-eighth year, who was gifted with ability to repeat accurately everything heard once by him. Are's mind was soon stored with a mass of ancient facts and obsolescent phraseology, but before either the task of official compilation or that of private restoration had been carried to completion the Emperor died (686), and an interval of twenty-five years elapsed before the Empress Gemmyo, on the 18th of September, 711, ordered a scholar, Ono Yasumaro, to transcribe the records stored in Are's memory. Four months sufficed for the work, and on the 28th of January, 712, Yasumaro submitted to the Throne the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Things) which ranked as the first history of Japan, and which will be here referred to as the Records.


It is necessary to revert now to the unfinished work of the classical compilers, as they may be called, whom the Emperor Temmu nominated in 682, but whose labours had not been concluded when his Majesty died in 686. There is no evidence that their task was immediately continued in an organized form, but it is related that during the reign of Empress Jito (690-696) further steps were taken to collect historical materials, and that the Empress Gemmyo (708-715)—whom we have seen carrying out, in 712, her predecessor Temmu's plan with regard to Hiyeda no Are—added, in 714, two skilled litterateurs to Temmu's classical compilers, and thus enabled them to complete their task, which took the shape of a book called the Nihongi (Chronicle of Japan).

This work, however, did not prove altogether satisfactory. It was written, for the most part, with a script called the Manyo syllabary; that is to say, with Chinese ideographs employed phonetically, and it did not at all attain the literary standard of its Chinese prototype. Therefore, the Empress entrusted to Prince Toneri and Ono Yasumaro the task of revising it, and their amended manuscript, concluded in 720, received the name of Nihon Shoki (Written Chronicles of Japan), the original being distinguished as Kana Nihongi, or Syllabic Chronicles. The Nihon Shoki consisted originally of thirty-one volumes, but of these one, containing the genealogies of the sovereigns, has been lost. It covers the whole of the prehistoric period and that part of the historic which extends from the accession of the Emperor Jimmu (660 B.C.) to the abdication of the Empress Jito (A.D. 697). The Kojiki extends back equally far, but terminates at the death of the Empress Suiko (A.D. 628).


In the year 713, when the Empress Gemmyo was on the throne, all the provinces of the empire received orders to submit to the Court statements setting forth the natural features of the various localities, together with traditions and remarkable occurrences. These documents were called Fudoki (Records of Natural Features). Many of them have been lost, but a few survive, as those of Izumo, Harima, and Hitachi.


The task of applying ideographic script to phonetic purposes is exceedingly difficult. In the ideographic script each character has a distinct sound and a complete meaning. Thus, in China shan signifies "mountain," and ming "light." But in Japanese "mountain" becomes yama and "light" akari. It is evident, then, that one of two things has to be done. Either the sounds of the Japanese words must be changed to those of the Chinese ideographs; or the sounds of the Chinese ideographs must alone be taken (irrespective of their meaning), and with them a phonetic syllabary must be formed. Both of these devices were employed by a Japanese scholar of early times. Sometimes disregarding the significance of the ideographs altogether, he used them simply as representing sounds, and with them built up pure Japanese words; at other times, he altered the sounds of Japanese words to those of their Chinese equivalents and then wrote them frankly with their ideographic symbols.

In this way each Japanese word came to have two pronunciations: first, its own original sound for colloquial purposes; and second, its borrowed sound for purposes of writing. At the outset the spoken and the written languages were doubtless kept tolerably distinct. But by degrees, as respect for Chinese literature developed, it became a learned accomplishment to pronounce Japanese words after the Chinese manner, and the habit ultimately acquired such a vogue that the language of men—who wrote and spoke ideographically—grew to be different from the language of women—who wrote and spoke phonetically. When Hiyeda no Are was required to memorize the annals and traditions collected and revised at the Imperial Court, the language in which he committed them to heart was pure Japanese, and in that language he dictated them, twenty-nine years later, to the scribe Yasumaro. The latter, in setting down the products of Are's memory, wrote for the most part phonetically; but sometimes, finding that method too cumbersome, he had recourse to the ideographic language, with which he was familiar. At all events, adding nothing nor taking away anything, he produced a truthful record of the myths, traditions, and salient historical incidents credited by the Japanese of the seventh century.

It may well be supposed, nevertheless, that Are's memory, however tenacious, failed in many respects, and that his historical details were comparatively meagre. An altogether different spirit presided at the work subsequently undertaken by this same Yasumaro, when, in conjunction with other scholars, he was required to collate the historical materials obtained abundantly from various sources since the vandalism of the Soga nobles. The prime object of these collaborators was to produce a Japanese history worthy to stand side by side with the classic models of China. Therefore, they used the Chinese language almost entirely, the chief exception being in the case of the old poems, a great number of which appear in the Records and the Chronicles alike. The actual words of these poems had to be preserved as well as the metre, and therefore it was necessary to indite them phonetically. For the rest, the Nihon Shoki, which resulted from the labours of these annalists and literati, was so Chinese that its authors did not hesitate to draw largely upon the cosmogonic myths of the Middle Kingdom, and to put into the mouths of Japanese monarchs, or into their decrees, quotations from Chinese literature. "As a repertory of ancient Japanese myth and legend there is little to choose between the Records and the Chronicles. The former is, on the whole, the fuller of the two, and contains legends which the latter passes over in silence; but the Chronicles, as we now have them, are enriched by variants of the early myths, the value of which, for purposes of comparison, is recognized by scientific inquirers. But there can be no comparison between the two works when viewed as history. Hiyeda no Are's memory cannot be expected to compete in fullness and accuracy with the abundant documentary literature accessible to the writers of the Chronicles, and an examination of the two works shows that, in respect to the record of actual events, the Chronicles are far the more useful authority".*

*Aston's Nihongi.

It will readily be supposed, too, that the authors of both works confused the present with the past, and, in describing the manners and customs of by-gone eras, unconsciously limned their pictures with colours taken from the palette of their own times, "when the national thought and institutions had become deeply modified by Chinese influences." Valuable as the two books are, therefore, they cannot be accepted without large limitations. The Nihon Shoki occupied a high place in national esteem from the outset. In the year following its compilation, the Empress Gensho summoned eminent scholars to the Court and caused them to deliver lectures on the contents of the book, a custom which was followed regularly by subsequent sovereigns and still finds a place among the New Year ceremonials. This book proved to be the precursor of five others with which it is commonly associated by Japanese scholars. They are the Zoku Nihongi (Supplementary Chronicles of Japan), in forty volumes, which covers the period from 697 to 791 and was finished in 798; the Nihon Koki (Later Chronicles of Japan), in forty volumes—ten only survive—which covers the period from 792 to 833; the Zoku Nihon Koki (Supplementary Later Chronicles), in twenty volumes, which covers the single reign of the Emperor Nimmyo (834-850) and was compiled in 869; the Montoku Jitsu-roku (True Annals of Montoku), in ten volumes, covering the reign of Montoku (851-858), and compiled in 879, and the Sandai Jitsu-roku (True Annals of Three Reigns) in fifty volumes, covering the period from 859 to 887 and compiled in 901. These five compilations together with the Nihon Shoki are honoured as the Six National Histories. It is noticeable that the writers were men of the highest rank, from prime ministers downwards. In such honour was the historiographer's art held in Japan in the eighth and ninth centuries.


Before beginning to read Japanese history it is necessary to know something of the chronology followed in its pages. There have been in Japan four systems for counting the passage of time. The first is by the reigns of the Emperors. That is to say, the first year of a sovereign's reign—reckoning from the New Year's day following his accession—became the 1 of the series, and the years were thenceforth numbered consecutively until his death or abdication. This method might be sufficiently accurate if the exact duration of each reign were known as well as the exact sequence of the reigns. But no such precision could be expected in the case of unwritten history, transmitted orally from generation to generation. Thus, while Japanese annalists, by accepting the aggregate duration of all the reigns known to them, arrive at the conclusion that the first Emperor, Jimmu, ascended the throne in the year 660 B.C., it is found on analysis that their figures assign to the first seventeen sovereigns an average age of 109 years.

The second system was by means of periods deriving their name (nengo) from some remarkable incident. Thus, the discovery of copper in Japan was commemorated by calling the year Wado (Japanese copper), and the era so called lasted seven years. Such a plan was even more liable to error than the device of reckoning by reigns, and a specially confusing feature was that the first year of the period dated retrospectively from the previous New Year's day, so that events were often recorded as having occurred in the final year of one period and in the opening year of another. This system was originally imported from China in the year A.D. 645, and is at present in use, the year 1910 being the forty-third of the Meiji (Enlightenment and Peace) period.

The third system was that of the sexagenary cycle. This was operated after the manner of a clock having two concentric dials, the circumference of the larger dial being divided into ten equal parts, each marked with one of the ten "celestial signs," and the circumference of the smaller dial being divided into twelve equal parts each marked with one of the twelve signs of the zodiac. The long hand of the clock, pointing to the larger dial, was supposed to make one revolution in ten years, and the shorter hand, pointing to the small dial, revolved once in twelve years. Thus, starting from the point where the marks on the two dials coincide, the long hand gained upon the short hand by one-sixtieth each year, and once in every sixty years the two hands were found at the point of conjunction. Years were indicated by naming the "celestial stem" and the zodiacal sign to which the imaginary hands happen to be pointing, just as clock-time is indicated by the minutes read from the long hand and the hours from the short. The sexagenary cycle came into use in China in 623 B.C. The exact date of its importation into Japan is unknown, but it was probably about the end of the fourth century A.D. It is a sufficiently accurate manner of counting so long as the tale of cycles is carefully kept, but any neglect in that respect exposes the calculator to an error of sixty years or some multiple of sixty. Keen scrutiny and collation of the histories of China, Korea, and Japan have exposed a mistake of at least 120 years connected with the earliest employment of the sexagenary cycle in Japan.

The fourth method corresponds to that adopted in Europe where the number of a year is referred to the birth of Christ. In Japan, the accession of the Emperor Jimmu—660 B.C.—is taken for a basis, and thus the Occidental year 1910 becomes the 2570th year of the Japanese dynasty. With such methods of reckoning some collateral evidence is needed before accepting any of the dates given in Japanese annals. Kaempfer and even Rein were content to endorse the chronology of the Chronicles—the Records avoid dates altogether—but other Occidental scholars* have with justice been more sceptical, and their doubts have been confirmed by several eminent Japanese historians in recent times. Where, then, is collateral evidence to be found?

*Notably Bramsen, Aston, Satow, and Chamberlain.

In the pages of Chinese and Korean history. There is, of course, no inherent reason for attributing to Korean history accuracy superior to that of Japanese history. But in China the habit of continuously compiling written annals had been practised for many centuries before Japanese events began even to furnish materials for romantic recitations, and no serious errors have been proved against Chinese historiographers during the periods when comparison with Japanese annals is feasible. In Korea's case, too, verification is partially possible. Thus, during the first five centuries of the Christian era, Chinese annals contain sixteen notices of events in Korea. If Korean history be examined as to these events, it is found to agree in ten instances, to disagree in two, and to be silent in four.* This record tends strongly to confirm the accuracy of the Korean annals, and it is further to be remembered that the Korean peninsula was divided during many centuries into three principalities whose records serve as mutual checks. Finally, Korean historians do not make any such demand upon our credulity as the Japanese do in the matter of length of sovereigns' reigns. For example, while the number of successions to the throne of Japan during the first four centuries of the Christian era is set down as seven only, making fifty-six years the average duration of a reign, the corresponding numbers for the three Korean principalities are sixteen, seventeen, and sixteen, respectively, making the average length of a reign from twenty-four to twenty-five years. It is, indeed, a very remarkable fact that whereas the average age of the first seventeen Emperors of Japan, who are supposed to have reigned from 660 B.C. down to A.D. 399, was 109 years, this incredible habit of longevity ceased abruptly from the beginning of the fifth century, the average age of the next seventeen having been only sixty-one and a half years; and it is a most suggestive coincidence that the year A.D. 461 is the first date of the accepted Japanese chronology which is confirmed by Korean authorities.

*Aston's essay on Early Japanese History

In fact, the conclusion is almost compulsory that Japanese authentic history, so far as dates are concerned, begins from the fifth century. Chinese annals, it is true, furnish one noteworthy and much earlier confirmation of Japanese records. They show that Japan was ruled by a very renowned queen during the first half of the third century of the Christian era, and it was precisely at that epoch that the Empress Jingo is related by Japanese history to have made herself celebrated at home and abroad. Chinese historiographers, however, put Jingo's death in the year A.D. 247, whereas Japanese annalists give the date as 269. Indeed there is reason to think that just at this time—second half of the third century—some special causes operated to disturb historical coherence in Japan, for not only does Chinese history refer to several signal events in Japan which find no place in the latter's records, but also Korean history indicates that the Japanese dates of certain cardinal incidents err by exactly 120 years. Two cycles in the sexagenary system of reckoning constitute 120 years, and the explanation already given makes it easy to conceive the dropping of that length of time by recorders having only tradition to guide them.

On the whole, whatever may be said as to the events of early Japanese history, its dates can not be considered trustworthy before the beginning of the fifth century. There is evidently one other point to be considered in this context; namely, the introduction of writing. Should it appear that the time when the Japanese first began to possess written records coincides with the time when, according to independent research, the dates given in their annals begin to synchronize with those of Chinese and Korean history, another very important landmark will be furnished. There, is such synchronism, but it is obtained at the cost of considerations which cannot be lightly dismissed. For, although it is pretty clearly established that an event which occured at the beginning of the fifth century preluded the general study of the Chinese language in Japan and may not unreasonably be supposed to have led to the use of the Chinese script in compiling historical records, still it is even more clearly established that from a much remoter era Japan had been on terms of some intimacy with her neighbours, China and Korea, and had exchanged written communications with them, so that the art of writing was assuredly known to her long before the fifth century of the Christian era, to whatever services she applied it. This subject will present itself again for examination in more convenient circumstances.

ENGRAVING: YUKIMIDORO (Style of Stone Lantern used in Japanese Gardens)





THE mythological page of a country's history has an interest of its own apart from legendary relations; it affords indications of the people's creeds and furnishes traces of the nation's genesis. In Japan's mythology there is a special difficulty for the interpreter—a difficulty of nomenclature. It has been the constant habit of foreign writers of Japan's story to speak of an "Age of Gods" (Kami no yo). But the Japanese word Kami* does not necessarily convey any such meaning. It has no divine import. We shall presently find that of the hundreds of families into which Japanese society came to be divided, each had its Kami, and that he was nothing more than the head of the household. Fifty years ago, the Government was commonly spoken of as O Kami (the Honourable Head), and a feudatory frequently had the title of Kami of such and such a locality. Thus to translate Kami by "deity" or "god" is misleading, and as the English language furnishes no exact equivalent, the best plan is to adhere to the original expression. That plan is adopted in the following brief summary of Japanese mythology.

*Much stress is laid upon the point by that most accurate scholar, Mr. B. H. Chamberlain.


Japanese mythology opens at the beginning of "the heaven and the earth." But it makes no attempt to account for the origin of things. It introduces us at once to a "plain of high heaven," the dwelling place of these invisible* Kami, one of whom is the great central being, and the other two derive their titles from their productive attributes. But as to what they produced or how they produced it, no special indication is given. Thereafter two more Kami are born from an elementary reedlike substance that sprouts on an inchoate earth. This is the first reference to organic matter. The two newly born Kami are invisible like their predecessors, and like them are not represented as taking any part in the creation. They are solitary, unseeable, and functionless, but the evident idea is that they have a more intimate connexion with cosmos than the Kami who came previously into existence, for one of them is named after the reed-shoot from which he emanated, and to the other is attributed the property of standing eternally in the heavens.

*The expression here translated "invisible" has been interpreted in the sense that the Kami "hid their persons," i.e., died, but the true meaning seems to be that they were invisible.

Up to this point there has not been any suggestion of measuring time. But now the record begins to speak of "generations." Two more solitary and invisible beings are born, one called the Kami who stands eternally on earth, the other the "abundant integrator." Each of these represents a generation, and it will be observed that up to this time no direct mention whatever is made of sex. Now, however, five generations ensue, each consisting of two Kami, a male and a female, and thus the epithet "solitary" as applied to the first seven Kami becomes intelligible. All these generations are represented as gradually approximating to the exercise of creative functions, for the names* become more and more suggestive of earthly relations. The last couple, forming the fifth generation, are Izanagi and Izanami, appellations signifying the male Kami of desire and the female Kami of desire. By all the other Kami these two are commissioned to "make, consolidate, and give birth to the drifting land," a jewelled spear being given to them as a token of authority, and a floating bridge being provided to carry them to earth. Izanagi and Izanami thrust the spear downwards and stir the "brine" beneath, with the result that it coagulates, and, dropping from the spear's point, forms the first of the Japanese islands, Onogoro. This island they take as the basis of their future operations, and here they beget, by ordinary human processes—which are described without any reservations—first, "a great number of islands, and next, a great number of Kami." It is related that the first effort of procreation was not successful, the outcome being a leechlike abortion and an island of foam, the former of which was sent adrift in a boat of reeds. The islands afterwards created form a large part of Japan, but between these islands and the Kami, begotten in succession to them, no connexion is traceable. In several cases the names of the Kami seem to be personifications of natural objects. Thus we have the Kami of the "wind's breath," of the sea, of the rivers, of the "water-gates" (estuaries and ports), of autumn, of "foam-calm," of "bubbling waves," of "water-divisions," of trees, of mountains, of moors, of valleys, etc. But with very rare exceptions, all these Kami have no subsequent share in the scheme of things and cannot be regarded as evidence that the Japanese were nature worshippers.

*The Kami of mud-earth; the Kami of germ-integration; the Kami of the great place; the Kami of the perfect exterior, etc.

A change of method is now noticeable. Hitherto the process of production has been creative; henceforth the method is transformation preceded by destruction. Izanami dies in giving birth to the Kami of fire, and her body is disintegrated into several beings, as the male and female Kami of metal mountains, the male and female Kami of viscid clay, the female Kami of abundant food, and the Kami of youth; while from the tears of Izanagi as he laments her decease is born the female Kami of lamentation. Izanagi then turns upon the child, the Kami of fire, which has cost Izanami her life, and cuts off its head; whereupon are born from the blood that stains his sword and spatters the rocks eight Kami, whose names are all suggestive of the violence that called them into existence. An equal number of Kami, all having sway over mountains, are born from the head and body of the slaughtered child.

At this point an interesting episode is recorded. Izanagi visits the "land of night," with the hope of recovering his spouse.* He urges her to return, as the work in which they were engaged is not yet completed. She replies that, unhappily having already eaten within the portals of the land of night, she may not emerge without the permission of the Kami** of the underworld, and she conjures him, while she is seeking that permission, not to attempt to look on her face. He, however, weary of waiting, breaks off one of the large teeth of the comb that holds his hair*** and, lighting it, uses it as a torch. He finds Izanami's body in a state of putrefaction, and amid the decaying remains eight Kami of thunder have been born and are dwelling. Izanagi, horrified, turns and flees, but Izanami, enraged that she has been "put to shame," sends the "hideous hag of hades" to pursue him. He obtains respite twice; first by throwing down his head-dress, which is converted into grapes, and then casting away his comb, which is transformed into bamboo sprouts, and while the hag stops to eat these delicacies, he flees. Then Izanami sends in his pursuit the eight Kami of thunder with fifteen hundred warriors of the underworld.**** He holds them off for a time by brandishing his sword behind him, and finally, on reaching the pass from the nether to the upper world, he finds three peaches growing there with which he pelts his pursuers and drives them back. The peaches are rewarded with the title of "divine fruit," and entrusted with the duty of thereafter helping all living people***** in the central land of "reed plains"****** as they have helped Izanagi.

*It is unnecessary to comment upon the identity of this incident with the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

**It will be observed that we hear of these Kami now for the first time.

***This is an obvious example of a charge often preferred against the compilers of the Records that they inferred the manners and customs of remote antiquity from those of their own time.

****Again we have here evidence that the story of creation, as told in the Records, is not supposed to be complete. It says nothing as to how the denizens of the underworld came into existence.

*****The first mention of human beings.

******This epithet is given to Japan.

This curious legend does not end here. Finding that the hag of hades, the eight Kami of thunder, and the fifteen hundred warriors have all been repulsed, Izanami herself goes in pursuit. But her way is blocked by a huge rock which Izanagi places in the "even pass of hades," and from the confines of the two worlds the angry pair exchange messages of final separation, she threatening to kill a thousand folk daily in his land if he repeats his acts of violence, and he declaring that, in such event, he will retaliate by causing fifteen hundred to be born.

In all this, no mention whatever is found of the manner in which human beings come into existence: they make their appearance upon the scene as though they were a primeval part of it. Izanagi, whose return to the upper world takes place in southwestern Japan,* now cleanses himself from the pollution he has incurred by contact with the dead, and thus inaugurates the rite of purification practised to this day in Japan. The Records describe minutely the process of his unrobing before entering a river, and we learn incidentally that he wore a girdle, a skirt, an upper garment, trousers, a hat, bracelets on each arm, and a necklace, but no mention is made of footgear. Twelve Kami are born from these various articles as he discards them, but without exception these additions to Japanese mythology seem to have nothing to do with the scheme of the universe: their titles appear to be wholly capricious, and apart from figuring once upon the pages of the Records they have no claim to notice. The same may be said of eleven among fourteen Kami thereafter born from the pollution which Izanagi washes off in a river.

*At Himuka in Kyushu, then called Tsukushi.

But the last three of these newly created beings act a prominent part in the sequel of the story. They are the "heaven-shining Kami" (Amaterasu-o-mi-Kami), commonly spoken of as the "goddess of the Sun;" the Kami of the Moon, and the Kami of force.* Izanagi expresses much satisfaction at the begetting of these three. He hands his necklace to the Kami of the Sun and commissions her to rule the "plain of heaven;" he confers upon the Kami of the Moon the dominion of night, and he appoints the Kami of force (Susanoo) to rule the sea-plain. The Kami of the Sun and the Kami of the Moon proceed at once to their appointed task, but the Kami of force, though of mature age and wearing a long beard, neglects his duty and falls to weeping, wailing, and fuming. Izanagi inquires the cause of his discontent, and the disobedient Kami replies that he prefers death to the office assigned him; whereupon he is forbidden to dwell in the same land with Izanagi and has to make his abode in Omi province. Then he forms the idea of visiting the "plain of high heaven" to bid farewell to his sister, the goddess of the Sun.

*Mr. Chamberlain translates the title of this Kami "brave, swift, impetuous, male, augustness."

But his journey is attended with such a shaking of mountains and seething of rivers that the goddess, informed of his recalcitrancy and distrusting his purpose, makes preparations to receive him in warlike guise, by dressing her hair in male fashion (i.e. binding it into knots), by tying up her skirt into the shape of trousers, by winding a string of five hundred curved jewels round her head and wrists, by slinging on her back two quivers containing a thousand arrows and five hundred arrows respectively, by drawing a guard on her left forearm, and by providing herself with a bow and a sword.

The Records and the Chronicles agree in ascribing to her such an exercise of resolute force that she stamps her feet into the ground as though it had been soft snow and scatters the earth about. Susanoo, however, disavows all evil intentions, and agrees to prove his sincerity by taking an oath and engaging in a Kami-producing competition, the condition being that if his offspring be female, the fact shall bear condemnatory import, but if male, the verdict shall be in his favour. For the purpose of this trial, they stand on opposite sides of a river (the Milky Way). Susanoo hands his sword to Amaterasu-o-mi-Kami, who breaks it into three pieces, chews the fragments, and blowing them from her mouth, produces three female Kami. She then lends her string of five hundred jewels to Susanoo and, he, in turn, crunches them in his mouth and blows out the fragments which are transformed into five male Kami. The beings thus strangely produced have comparatively close connexions with the mundane scheme, for the three female Kami—euphoniously designated Kami of the torrent mist, Kami of the beautiful island, and Kami of the cascade—become tutelary goddesses of the shrines in Chikuzen province (or the sacred island Itsuku-shima), and two of the male Kami become ancestors of seven and twelve families, respectively, of hereditary nobles.

On the "high plain of heaven," however, trouble is not allayed. The Sun goddess judges that since female Kami were produced from the fragments of Susanoo's sword and male Kami from her own string of jewels, the test which he himself proposed has resulted in his conviction; but he, repudiating that verdict, proceeds to break down the divisions of the rice-fields laid out by the goddess, to fill up the ditches, and to defile the palace—details which suggest either that, according to Japanese tradition, heaven has its agriculture and architecture just as earth has, or that the "plain of high heaven" was really the name of a place in the Far East. The Sun goddess makes various excuses for her brother's lawless conduct, but he is not to be placated. His next exploit is to flay a piebald horse and throw it through a hole which he breaks in the roof of the hall where the goddess is weaving garments for the Kami. In the alarm thus created, the goddess* is wounded by her shuttle, whereupon she retires into a cave and places a rock at the entrance, so that darkness falls upon the "plain of high heaven" and upon the islands of Japan,** to the consternation of the Kami of evil, whose voices are heard like the buzzing of swarms of flies.

*According to the Records, it is the attendants of the goddess that suffer injury.

**Referring to this episode, Aston writes in his Nihongi: "Amaterasu-o-mi-Kami is throughout the greater part of this narrative an anthropomorphic deity, with little that is specially characteristic of her solar functions. Here, however, it is plainly the sun itself which witholds its light and leaves the world to darkness. This inconsistency, which has greatly exercised the native theologians, is not peculiar to Japanese myth."

Then follows a scene perhaps the most celebrated in all the mythological legends; a scene which was the origin of the sacred dance in Japan and which furnished to artists in later ages a frequent motive. The "eight hundred myriads" of Kami—so numerous have the denizens of the "plain of high heaven" unaccountably become—assemble in the bed of the "tranquil river"* to confer about a means of enticing the goddess from her retirement. They entrust the duty of forming a plan to the Kami of "thought combination," now heard of for the first time as a son of one of the two producing Kami, who, with the "great central" Kami, constituted the original trinity of heavenly denizens. This deity gathers together a number of barn-yard fowl to signal sunrise, places the Kami of the "strong arm" at the entrance of the cave into which the goddess has retired, obtains iron from the "mines of heaven" and causes it to be forged into an "eight-foot" mirror, appoints two Kami to procure from Mount Kagu a "five-hundred branched" sakaki tree (cleyera Japonica), from whose branches the mirror together with a "five-hundred beaded" string of curved jewels and blue and white streamers of hempen cloth and paper-mulberry cloth are suspended, and causes divination to be performed with the shoulder blade of a stag.

*The Milky Way.

Then, while a grand liturgy is recited, the "heaven-startling" Kami, having girdled herself with moss, crowned her head with a wreath of spindle-tree leaves and gathered a bouquet of bamboo grass, mounts upon a hollow wooden vessel and dances, stamping so that the wood resounds and reciting the ten numerals repeatedly. Then the "eight-hundred myriad" Kami laugh in unison, so that the "plain of high heaven" shakes with the sound, and the Sun goddess, surprised that such gaiety should prevail in her absence, looks out from the cave to ascertain the cause. She is taunted by the dancer, who tells her that a greater than she is present, and the mirror being thrust before her, she gradually comes forward, gazing into it with astonishment; whereupon the Kami of the "strong arm" grasps her hand and drags her out, while two other Kami* stretch behind her a rope made of straw, pulled up by the roots,** to prevent her return, and sunshine once more floods the "plain of high heaven."

*These two are the ancestors of the Kami of the Nakatomi and the Imibe hereditary corporations, who may be described as the high priests of the indigenous cult of Japan.

**This kind of rope called shime-nawa, an abbreviation of shiri-kume-nawa may be seen festooning the portals of any Shinto shrine.

The details of this curious legend deserve attention for the sake of their close relation to the observances of the Shinto cult. Moreover, the mythology now takes a new departure. At the time of Izanagi's return from hades, vague reference is made to human beings, but after Susanoo's departure from the "plain of high heaven," he is represented as holding direct converse with them. There is an interlude which deals with the foodstuffs of mortals. Punished with a fine of a great number of tables* of votive offerings, his beard cut off, and the nails of his fingers and toes pulled out, Susanoo is sentenced to expulsion from heaven. He seeks sustenance from the Kami of food, and she responds by taking from the orifices of her body various kinds of viands which she offers to him. But he, deeming himself insulted, kills her, whereupon from her corpse are born rice, millet, small and large beans, and barley. These are taken by one of the two Kami of production, and by him they are caused to be used as seeds.

*The offerings of food in religious services were always placed upon small, low tables.

Thereafter Susanoo descends to a place at the headwaters of the river Hi (Izumo province). Seeing a chop-stick float down the stream, he infers the existence of people higher up the river, and going in search of them, finds an old man and an old woman lamenting over and caressing a girl. The old man says that he is an earthly Kami, son of the Kami of mountains, who was one of the thirty-five Kami borne by Izanami before her departure for hades. He explains that he had originally eight daughters, but that every year an eight-forked serpent has come from the country of Koshi and devoured one of the maidens, so that there remains only Lady Wonderful, whose time to share her sisters' fate is now at hand. It is a huge monster, extending over eight valleys and eight hills, its eyes red like winter cherries, its belly bloody and inflamed, and its back overgrown with moss and conifers. Susanoo, having announced himself as the brother of the Sun goddess, receives Lady Wonderful and at once transforms her into a comb which he places in his hair. He then instructs the old man and his wife to build a fence with eight gates, placing in every gate a vat of rice wine.

Presently the serpent arrives, drinks the wine, and laying down its heads to sleep, is cut to pieces by Susanoo with his ten-span sabre. In the body of the serpent the hero finds a sword, "great and sharp," which he sends to the Sun goddess, at whose shrine in Ise it is subsequently found and given to the famous warrior, Yamato-dake, when he is setting out on his expedition against the Kumaso of the north. The sword is known as the "Herb-queller." Susanoo then builds for himself and Lady Wonderful a palace at Suga in Izumo, and composes a celebrated verse of Japanese poetry.* Sixth in descent from the offspring of this union is the "Kami of the great land," called also the "Great-Name Possessor," or the "Kami of the reed plains," or the "Kami of the eight thousand spears," or the "Kami of the great land of the living," the last name being antithetical to Susanoo's title of "Ruler of Hades."

*"Many clouds arise, On all sides a manifold fence, To receive within it the spouse, They form a manifold fence Ah! that manifold fence."

Several legends are attached to the name of this multinominal being—legends in part romantic, in part supernatural, and in part fabulous. His eighty brethren compel him to act as their servant when they go to seek the hand of Princess Yakami of Inaba. But on the way he succours a hare which they have treated brutally and the little animal promises that he, not they, shall win the princess, though he is only their baggage-bearer. Enraged at the favour she shows him, they seek in various ways to destroy him: first by rolling down on him from a mountain a heated rock; then by wedging him into the cleft of a tree, and finally by shooting him. But he is saved by his mother, and takes refuge in the province of Kii (the Land of Trees) at the palace of the "Kami of the great house."* Acting on the latter's advice, he visits his ancestor, Susanoo, who is now in hades, and seeks counsel as to some means of overcoming his eighty enemies. But instead of helping him, that unruly Kami endeavours to compass his death by thrusting him into a snake-house; by putting him into a nest of centipedes and wasps, and finally by shooting an arrow into a moor, sending him to seek it and then setting fire to the grass. He is saved from the first two perils through the agency of miraculous scarves given to him by Princess Forward, Susanoo's daughter, who has fallen in love with him; and from the last dilemma a mouse instructs him how to emerge.

*A son of Susanoo. Under the name of Iso-Takeru he is recorded to have brought with him a quantity of seeds of trees and shrubs, which he planted, not in Korea, but in Tsukushi (Kyushu) and the eight islands of Japan. These words "not in Korea" are worthy of note, as will presently be appreciated.

A curious episode concludes this recital: Susanoo requires that the parasites shall be removed from his head by his visitor. These parasites are centipedes, but the Great-Name Possessor, again acting under the instruction of Princess Forward, pretends to be removing the centipedes, whereas he is in reality spitting out a mixture of berries and red earth. Susanoo falls asleep during the process, and the Great-Name Possessor binds the sleeping Kami's hair to the rafters of the house, places a huge rock at the entrance, seizes Susanoo's life-preserving sword and life-preserving bow and arrows as also his sacred lute,* and taking Princess Forward on his back, flees. The lute brushes against a tree, and its sound rouses Susanoo. But before he can disentangle his hair from the rafters, the fugitives reach the confines of the underworld, and the enraged Kami, while execrating this visitor who has outwitted him, is constrained to direct him how to overcome his brethren and to establish his rule firmly. In all this he succeeds, and having married Princess Yakami, to whom he was previously engaged,** he resumes the work left unfinished by Izanagi and Izanami, the work of "making the land."

*Sacred because divine revelations were supposed to be made through a lute-player.

**In the story of this Kami, we find the first record of conjugal jealousy in Japan. Princess Forward strongly objects to her husband's excursions into novel fields.

The exact import of this process, "making the land," is not discernible. In the hands of Izanagi and Izanami it resolves itself into begetting, first, a number of islands and, then, a number of Kami. At the outset it seems to have no more profound significance for the Great-Name Possessor. Several generations of Kami are begotten by him, but their names give no indication of the parts they are supposed to have taken in the "making of the land." They are all born in Japan, however, and it is perhaps significant that among them the one child—the Kami of wells—brought forth by Princess Yakami, is not included. Princess Forward has no children, a fact which doubtless augments her jealousy of her husband's amours; jealousy expressed in verses that show no mean poetic skill. Thus, the Great-Name Possessor on the eve of a journey from Izumo to Yamato, sings as he stands with one hand on his saddle and one foot in the stirrup:—

Though thou sayest thou willst not weep If like the flocking birds, I flock and depart, If like the led birds, I am led away and Depart; thou wilt hang down thine head like A single Eulalia upon the mountain and Thy weeping shall indeed rise as the mist of The morning shower. Then the Empress, taking a wine-cup, approaches and offers it to him, saying: Oh! Thine Augustness, the Deity-of-Eight-Thousand-Spears! Thou, my dear Master-of-the-Great-Land indeed, Being a man, probably hast on the various island headlands thou seest, And on every beach-headland that thou lookest on, A wife like the young herbs. But as for me, alas! Being a woman, I have no man except thee; I have no spouse except thee. Beneath the fluttering of the ornamented fence, Beneath the softness of the warm coverlet, Beneath the rustling of the cloth coverlet, Thine arms, white as rope of paper-mulberry bark softly patting my breast soft as the melting snow, And patting each other interlaced, stretching out and pillowing ourselves on each other's arms, True jewel arms, and with outstretched legs, will we sleep.*

*B. H. Chamberlain.

"Having thus sung, they at once pledged each other by the cup with their hands on each other's necks." It is, nevertheless, from among the children born on the occasion of the contest between the Sun goddess and Susanoo that the Great-Name Possessor first seeks a spouse—the Princess of the Torrent Mist—to lay the foundation of fifteen generations of Kami, whose birth seems to have been essential to the "making of the land," though their names afford no clue to the functions discharged by them. From over sea, seated in a gourd and wearing a robe of wren's feathers, there comes a pigmy, Sukuna Hikona, who proves to be one of fifteen hundred children begotten by the Kami of the original trinity. Skilled in the arts of healing sickness and averting calamities from men or animals, this pigmy renders invaluable aid to the Great-Name Possessor. But the useful little Kami does not wait to witness the conclusion of the work of "making and consolidating the country." Before its completion he takes his departure from Cape Kumano in Izumo to the "everlasting land"—a region commonly spoken of in ancient Japanese annals but not yet definitely located. He is replaced by a spirit whose coming is thus described by the Chronicles:

After this (i.e. the departure of Sukuna), wherever there was in the land a part which was imperfect, the Great-Name Possessor visited it by himself and succeeded in repairing it. Coming at last to the province of Izumo, he spake and said: "This central land of reed plains had always been waste and wild. The very rocks, trees, and huts were all given to violence... But I have now reduced it to submission, and there is none that is not compliant." Therefore he said finally: "It is I, and I alone, who now govern this land. Is there, perchance, anyone who could join with me in governing the world?" Upon this a divine radiance illuminated the sea, and of a sudden there was something which floated towards him and said: "Were I not here, how couldst thou subdue this land? It is because I am here that thou hast been enabled to accomplish this mighty undertaking." Then the Great-Name Possessor inquired, saying, "Then who art thou?" It replied and said: "I am thy guardian spirit, the wonderous spirit." Then said the Great-Name Possessor: "True, I know therefore that thou art my guardian spirit, the wonderous spirit. Where dost thou now wish to dwell?" The spirit answered and said, "I wish to dwell on Mount Mimoro in the province of Yamato." Accordingly he built a shrine in that place and made the spirit go and dwell there. This is the Kami of Omiwa.*

*Aston's Translation of the Nihongi.

After the above incident, another begetting of Kami takes place on a large scale, but only a very few of them—such as the guardian of the kitchen, the protector of house-entrances, the Kami of agriculture, and so forth—have any intelligible place in the scheme of things.





THE dividing line between mythological tradition and historical legend is now reached. It will have been observed that, after the descent of Susanoo, the Kami on the "plain of high heaven" took no further part in "making" or "ruling" the "ever fruitful land of reed-covered moors, and luxuriant rice-fields," as Japan was called. Everything was left in the hands of Susanoo, the insubordinate Kami, who had been expelled from heaven for his destructive violence. His descendant in the sixth generation, the Great-Name Possessor, now held supreme sway over the islands, in conjunction with a number of his own relations, his seat of power being in the province of Izumo. At this juncture the goddess of the Sun decided that a sovereign should be sent down to govern the land of many islands, and she chose for this purpose the son of the eldest* of the five Kami born from her necklace during the procreation competition with Susanoo.

In the first place, however, it was considered necessary to reduce the country to order, observation having shown it to be in a state of tumult. For that purpose the second of the five necklace Kami—considered "the most heroic" of all the beings on the "plain of high heaven"—was despatched. But he "curried favour" with the Great-Name Possessor and took up his abode in Japan. At the end of three years,** seeing that he had not returned, it was decided by the Kami in council to send another envoy, the Heavenly Young Prince. But he proved even more disloyal, for he married the daughter of the Great-Name Possessor, famous for her beauty,*** and planning to succeed his father-in-law as sovereign of the land, remained in Izumo for eight years. A third conclave of the Kami was now convened by the Sun goddess and her coadjutor, the Great-Producing Kami,* and they decided to despatch a pheasant to make observations.

*This Kami married a daughter of one of the two Great-Producing Kami who belonged to the original trinity, and who co-operates with the Sun goddess throughout.

**This is the first mention of a measure of time in the Records.

***She was called Princess Undershining, because her beauty shone through her raiment.

The bird flew down and lit on a cassia tree at the gate of the Heavenly Young Prince's dwelling, whereupon the prince, at the instigation of a female spy, taking a bow given to him originally by the Great-Producing Kami, shot a shaft which pierced the bird's bosom, and, reaching the Milky Way where sat the Sun goddess and the Great-Producing Kami, was recognized by the latter, who threw it back to earth, decreeing that it should strike the prince were he guilty of treason, and leave him unharmed if the blood on the arrow was that of the earthly Kami whom he had been sent to quell. The shaft struck the prince and killed him.

At this point the course of the history is interrupted by an unintelligible description of the resulting obsequies—held in heaven according to the Chronicles, on earth according to the Records. Wild geese, herons, kingfishers, sparrows, and pheasants were the principal officiators; the mourning rites, which included singing, and dancing,* continued for eight days and eight nights, and the proceedings were rudely interrupted by the prince's brother-in-law, who, coming to condole and being mistaken for the deceased, is so enraged by the error that he draws his sword, cuts down the mortuary house, and kicks away the pieces.

*It has been conjectured, with much probability, that this singing and dancing was a ceremony in imitation of the rites performed to entice the Sun goddess from her cave. The motive was to resuscitate the dead.

These two failures did not deter the Great-Producing Kami and the Sun goddess. They again took counsel with the other beings on the "plain of high heaven," and it was decided to have recourse to the Kami born from the blood that dropped from Izanagi's sword when he slew the Kami of fire. To one of these—the Kami of courage—the mission of subduing the land of many islands was entrusted, and associated with him in the work was the Kami of boats, a son of Izanagi and Izanami. The two descended to Izumo. They carried swords ten hand-breadths long, and having planted these upside down, they seated themselves on the points and delivered their message to the Great-Name Possessor, requiring him to declare whether or not he would abdicate in favour of the newly named sovereign.

The Great-Name Possessor replied that he must consult his son, who was absent on a hunting expedition. Accordingly, the Kami of boats went to seek him, and, on being conducted into his father's presence, the latter declared his willingness to surrender, sealing the declaration by suicide.* There remained, then, only the second son of the Great-Name Possessor to be consulted. He did not submit so easily. Relying on his great strength, he challenged the Kami of courage to a trial of hand grasping. But when he touched the Kami's hand it turned first into an icicle and then into a sword-blade, whereas his own hand, when seized by the Kami, was crushed and thrown aside like a young reed. He fled away in terror, and was pursued by the Kami as far as the distant province of Shinano, when he saved his life by making formal submission and promising not to contravene the decision of his father and elder brother.

*He stepped on the side of his boat so as to upset it, and with hands crossed behind his back sank into the sea.

Then the Great-Name Possessor, having "lost his sons, on whom he relied," agreed to abdicate provided that a shrine were built in memory of him, "having its pillars made stout on the nethermost rock-bottom, and its cross-beams raised to the 'plain of high heaven.'"* He handed over the broad-bladed spear which had assisted him to pacify the land, and declaring that if he offered resistance, all the earthly Kami, too, would certainly resist, he "hid in the eighty road-windings."

*This hyperbolical language illustrates the tone of the Records and the Chronicles. Applied to the comparatively humble buildings that served for residences in ancient Japan, the description in the text is curiously exaggerated. The phrase here quoted finds frequent reproduction in the Shinto rituals.

Thus, already in the eighth century when the Records and the Chronicles were compiled, suicide after defeat in battle had become a recognized practice. The submission and self-inflicted death of the Great-Name Possessor did not, however, save his followers. All the rebellious Kami were put to the sword by the envoys from the "plain of high heaven." This chapter of the annals ends with an account of the shrine erected in memory of the Great-Name Possessor. It was placed under the care of a grandson of the Kami born to Izanagi and Izanami, who is represented as declaring that he "would continue drilling fire for the Kami's kitchen until the soot hung down eight hand-breadths from the roof of the shrine of the Great-Producing Kami and until the earth below was baked to its nethermost rocks; and that with the fire thus drilled he would cook for him the fish brought in by the fishermen, and present them to him in baskets woven of split bamboos which would bend beneath their weight."


It had been originally intended that the dominion of Japan should be given to the senior of the five Kami born of the five-hundred-jewel string of the Sun goddess. But during the interval devoted to bringing the land to a state of submission, this Kami's spouse, the Princess of the Myriad Looms of the Luxuriant Dragon-fly Island,* had borne a son, Hikoho no Ninigi, (Rice-Ears of Ruddy Plenty), and this boy having now grown to man's estate, it was decided to send him as ruler of Japan. A number of Kami were attached to him as guards and assistants, among them being the Kami of "thought combination," who conceived the plan for enticing the Sun goddess from her cave and who occupied the position of chief councillor in the conclave of high heaven; the female Kami who danced before the cave; the female Kami who forged the mirror, and, in short, all the Kami who assisted in restoring light to the world. There were also entrusted to the new sovereign the curved-jewel chaplet of the Sun goddess, the mirror that had helped to entice her, and the sword (herb-queller) which Susanoo had taken from the body of the eight-headed serpent.

*"Dragon-fly Island" was a name anciently given to Japan on account of the country's shape.

These three objects thenceforth became the three sacred things of Japan. Strict injunction was given that the mirror was to be regarded and reverenced exactly as though it was the spirit of the Sun goddess, and it was ordered that the Kami of "thought combination" should administer the affairs of the new kingdom. The fact is also to be noted that among the Kami attached to Hikoho no Ninigi's person, five—three male and two female—are designated by the Records as ancestors and ancestresses of as many hereditary corporations, a distinctive feature of the early Japan's polity. As to the manner of Hikoho no Ninigi's journey to Japan, the Chronicles say that the Great-Producing Kami threw the coverlet of his couch over him and caused him to cleave his way downwards through the clouds; but the Records allege that he descended "shut up in the floating bridge of heaven."

The point has some interest as furnishing a traditional trace of the nature of this so-called invasion of Japan, and as helping to confirm the theory that the "floating bridge of heaven," from which Izanagi thrust his spear downwards into the brine of chaos, was nothing more than a boat. It will naturally be supposed that as Hikoho no Ninigi's migration to Japan was in the sequel of a long campaign having its main field in the province of Izumo, his immediate destination would have been that province, where a throne was waiting to be occupied by him, and where he knew that a rich region existed. But the Records and the Chronicles agree in stating that he descended on Kirishimayama* in Tsukushi, which is the ancient name of the island of Kyushu. This is one of the first eight islands begotten by Izanagi and Izanami. Hence the alternative name for Japan, "Land of the Eight Great Islands."

*Takachiho-dake is often spoken of as the mountain thus celebrated, but Takachiho is only the eastern, and lower, of the two peaks of Kirishima-yama.

It was, moreover, to a river of Tsukushi that Izanagi repaired to cleanse himself from the pollution of hades. But between Kyushu (Tsukushi) and Izumo the interval is immense, and it is accentuated by observing that the mountain Kirishima, specially mentioned in the story, raises its twin peaks at the head of the Bay of Kagoshima in the extreme south of Kyushu. There is very great difficulty in conceiving that an army whose ultimate destination was Izumo should have deliberately embarked on the shore of Kagoshima. The landing of Ninigi—his full name need not be repeated—was made with all precautions, the van of his army (kume) being commanded by the ancestor of the men who thenceforth held the highest military rank (otomo) through many centuries, and the arms carried being bows, arrows, and swords.*

*The swords are said to have been "mallet-headed," but the term still awaits explanation.

All the annals agree in suggesting that the newcomers had no knowledge of the locality, but whereas one account makes Ninigi consult and obtain permission from an inhabitant of the place, another represents him as expressing satisfaction that the region lay opposite to Kara (Korea) and received the beams of the rising and the setting sun, qualifications which it is not easy to associate with any part of southern Kyushu.

At all events he built for himself a palace in accordance with the orthodox formula—its pillars made stout on the nethermost rock-bottom and its cross-beams made high to the plain of heaven—and apparently abandoned all idea of proceeding to Izumo. Presently he encountered a beautiful girl. She gave her name as Brilliant Blossom, and described herself as the daughter of the Kami of mountains one of the thirty-five beings begotten by Izanagi and Izanami who would seem to have been then living in Tsukushi, and who gladly consented to give Brilliant Blossom. He sent with her a plentiful dower—many "tables"* of merchandise—but he sent also her elder sister, Enduring-as-Rock, a maiden so ill favoured that Ninigi dismissed her with disgust, thus provoking the curse of the Kami of mountains, who declared that had his elder daughter been welcomed, the lives of the heavenly sovereigns** would have been as long as her name suggested, but that since she had been treated with contumely, their span of existence would be comparatively short. Presently Brilliant Blossom became enceinte. Her lord, however, thinking that sufficient time had not elapsed for such a result, suspected her of infidelity with one of the earthly Kami,*** whereupon she challenged the ordeal of fire, and building a parturition hut, passed in, plastered up the entrance, and set fire to the building. She was delivered of three children without mishap, and their names were Hosuseri (Fire-climax), Hohodemi (Fire-shine), and Hoori (Fire-subside).

*This expression has reference to the fact that offerings at religious ceremonials were always heaped on low tables for laying before the shrine.

**The expression "heavenly sovereign" is here applied for the first time to the Emperors of Japan.

***The term "earthly" was applied to Kami born on earth, "heavenly" Kami being those born in heaven.


At this stage the annals digress to relate an episode which has only collateral interest Hosuseri and Hohodemi made fishing and hunting, respectively, their avocations. But Hohodemi conceived a fancy to exchange pursuits, and importuned Hosuseri to agree. When, however, the former tried his luck at angling, he not only failed to catch anything but also lost the hook which his brother had lent him. This became the cause of a quarrel. Hosuseri taunted Hohodemi on the foolishness of the original exchange and demanded the restoration of his hook, nor would he be placated though Hohodemi forged his sabre into five hundred hooks and then into a thousand. Wandering disconsolate,* by the seashore, Hohodemi met the Kami of salt, who, advising him to consult the daughter of the ocean Kami,** sent him to sea in a "stout little boat."

*"Weeping and lamenting" are the words in the Records.

**One of the Kami begotten by Izanagi and Izanami.

After drifting for a time, he found himself at a palace beside which grew a many-branched cassia tree overhanging a well. He climbed into the tree and waited. Presently the handmaidens of Princess Rich Gem, daughter of the ocean Kami, came to draw water, and seeing a shadow in the well, they detected Hohodemi in the cassia tree. At his request they gave him water in a jewelled vessel, but instead of drinking, he dropped into the vessel a gem from his own necklace, and the handmaidens, unable to detach the gem, carried the vessel to their mistress. Then the princess went to look and, seeing a beautiful youth in the cassia tree, "exchanged glances" with him. The ocean Kami quickly recognized Hohodemi; led him in; seated him on a pile of many layers of sealskins* overlaid by many layers of silk rugs; made a banquet for him, and gave him for wife Princess Rich Gem.

*Chamberlain translates this "sea-asses' skins," and conjectures that sea-lions or seals may be meant.

Three years passed tranquilly without the bridegroom offering any explanation of his presence. At the end of that time, thoughts of the past visited him and he "sighed." Princess Rich Gem took note of this despondency and reported it to her father, who now, for the first time, inquired the cause of Hohodemi's coming. Thereafter all the fishes of the sea, great and small, were summoned, and being questioned about the lost hook, declared that the tai* had recently complained of something sticking in its throat and preventing it from eating. So the lost hook was recovered, and the ocean Kami instructed Hohodemi, when returning it to his brother, to warn the latter that it was a useless hook which would not serve its purpose, but would rather lead its possessor to ruin. He further instructed him to follow a method of rice culture the converse of that adopted by his brother, since he, the ocean Kami, would rule the waters so as to favour Hohodemi's labours, and he gave him two jewels having the property of making the tide ebb and flow, respectively. These jewels were to be used against Hosuseri, if necessary.

*Pagrus major.

Finally the Kami of the ocean instructed a crocodile to carry Hohodemi to his home. This was accomplished, and in token of his safe arrival, Hohodemi placed his stiletto on the crocodile's neck for conveyance to the ocean Kami.

The programme prescribed by the latter was now faithfully pursued, so that Hosuseri grew constantly poorer, and finally organized a fierce attack upon his younger brother, who, using the tide-flowing jewel, overwhelmed his assailants until they begged for mercy, whereupon the power of the tide-ebbing jewel was invoked to save them. The result was that Hosuseri, on behalf of himself and his descendants for all time, promised to guard and respectfully serve his brother by day and by night. In this episode the hayabito had their origin. They were palace guards, who to their military functions added the duty of occasionally performing a dance which represented the struggles of their ancestor, Hosuseri, when he was in danger of drowning.


After the composition of the quarrel described above, Princess Rich Gem arrived from the castle of the ocean Kami, and built a parturition hut on the seashore, she being about to bring forth a child. Before the thatch of cormorants' feathers could be completed, the pains of labour overtook her, and she entered the hut, conjuring her husband not to spy upon her privacy, since, in order to be safely delivered, she must assume a shape appropriate to her native land. He, however, suffered his curiosity to overcome him, and peeping in, saw her in the form of an eight-fathom crocodile. It resulted that having been thus put to shame, she left her child and returned to the ocean Kami's palace, declaring that there should be no longer any free passage between the dominions of the ocean Kami and the world of men. "Nevertheless afterwards, although angry at her husband's having wished to peep, she could not restrain her loving heart," and she sent her younger sister, Good Jewel, to nurse the baby and to be the bearer of a farewell song to Hohodemi.

The Records state that the latter lived to the age of 580 years and that his mausoleum was built to the west of Mount Takachiho, on which his palace stood. Thus for the first time the duration of a life is stated in the antique annals of Japan. His son, called Fuki-ayezu (Unfinished Thatch), in memory of the strange incident attending his birth, married Princess Good Jewel, his own aunt, and by her had four sons. The first was named Itsuse (Five Reaches) and the youngest, Iware (a village in Yamato province). This latter ultimately became Emperor of Japan, and is known in history as Jimmu (Divine Valour), a posthumous name given to him many centuries after his death.* From the time of this sovereign dates and events are recorded with full semblance of accuracy in the Chronicles, but the compilers of the Records do not attempt to give more than a bald statement of the number of years each sovereign lived or reigned.

*Posthumous names for the earthly Mikados were invented in the reign of Kwammu (A.D. 782-805), i.e., after the date of the compilation of the Records and the Chronicles. But they are in universal use by the Japanese, though to speak of a living sovereign by his posthumous name is a manifest anomaly.


According to the Chronicles, the four sons of Fuki-ayezu engaged in a celebrated expedition from Tsukushi (Kyushu) to Yamato, but one alone, the youngest, survived. According to the Records, two only took part in the expedition, the other two having died before it set out. The former version seems more consistent with the facts, and with the manner of the two princes' deaths, as described in the Records. Looking from the east coast of the island of Kyushu, the province of Yamato lies to the northeast, at a distance of about 350 miles, and forms the centre of the Kii promontory. From what has preceded, a reader of Japanese history is prepared to find that the objective of the expedition was Izumo, not Yamato, since it was to prepare for the occupation of the former province that the Sun goddess and her coadjutors expended so much energy. No explanation whatever of this discrepancy is offered, but it cannot be supposed that Yamato was regarded as a halfway house to Izumo, seeing that they lie on opposite coasts of Japan and are two hundred miles distant.

The Chronicles assign the genesis of the enterprise to Prince Iware, whom they throughout call Hohodemi, and into whose mouth they put an exhortation—obviously based on a Chinese model—speaking of a land in the east encircled by blue mountains and well situated, as the centre of administrative authority. To reach Yamato by sea from Kyushu two routes offer; one, the more direct, is by the Pacific Ocean straight to the south coast of the Kii promontory; the other is by the Inland Sea to the northwestern coast of the same promontory. The latter was chosen, doubtless because nautical knowledge and seagoing vessels were alike wanting.

It is not possible, however, to speak with confidence as to the nature of the ships possessed by the Japanese in early times. The first mention of ships occurs in the story of Susanoo's arrival in Japan. He is said to have carried with him quantities of tree seeds which he planted in the Eight Island Country, the cryptomeria and the camphor being intended to serve as "floating riches," namely ships. This would suggest, as is indeed commonly believed, that the boats of that era were simply hollow trunks of trees.

Five centuries later, however, without any intervening reference, we find the Emperor Sujin urging the construction of ships as of cardinal importance for purposes of coastwise transport—advice which is hardly consistent with the idea of log boats. Again, in A.D. 274, the people of Izu are recorded as having built and sent to the Court a vessel one hundred feet long; and, twenty-six years later, this ship having become old and unserviceable, was used as fuel for manufacturing salt, five hundred bags of which were distributed among the provinces with directions to construct as many ships.

There is no mention in either the Chronicles or the Records of any marked change in the matter of marine architecture during all these years. The nature of the Kyushu expeditionary ships must therefore remain a matter of conjecture, but that they were propelled by oars, not sails, seems pretty certain. Setting out from some point in Kyushu probably the present Kagoshima Bay the expedition made its way up the east coast of the island, and reaching the Bungo Channel, where the tide is very rapid, obtained the services of a fisherman as pilot. Thence the fleet pushed on to Usa in the province of Buzen, at the north of Kyushu, when two local chieftains built for the entertainment and residence of the princes and their followers a "one pillared palace"—probably a tent. The next place of call was Oka (or Okada) in Chikuzen, where they passed a year before turning eastward into the Inland Sea, and pushing on to one of the many islands off the coast of Aki, they spent seven years before proceeding to another island (Takashima) in Kibi, as the present three provinces of Bingo, Bitchu, and Bizen were then called. There they delayed for eight years the Chronicles say three—in order to repair the oars of their vessels and to procure provisions.

Up to this time there had been no fighting or any attempt to effect a lodgment on the mainland. But the expedition was now approaching the narrow westerly entrance to the present Osaka Bay, where an army might be encountered at any moment. The boats therefore sailed in line ahead, "the prow of each ship touching the stern of the other." Off the mouth of the river, now known as the Yodo, they encountered such a high sea that they called the place Nami-hana (Wave Flowers), a name subsequently abbreviated to Naniwa. Pushing on, the expeditionary force finally landed at a place—not now identifiable—in the province of Kawachi, which bounds Yamato on the west.

The whole voyage had occupied four years according to the Chronicles, sixteen according to the Records. At Kusaka they fought their first battle against the army of Prince Nagasune and were repulsed, Prince Itsuse being wounded by an arrow which struck his elbow. It was therefore decided to change the direction of advance, so that instead of moving eastward in the face of the sun, a procedure unpleasing to the goddess of that orb, they should move westward with the sun behind them. This involved re-embarking and sailing southward round the Kii promontory so as to land on its eastern coast, but the dangerous operation of putting an army on board ship in the presence of a victorious enemy was successfully achieved by the aid of skilfully used shields.

On the voyage round Kii, where stormy seas are frequent, the fleet encountered a heavy gale and the boats containing two of the princes were lost.* Prince Itsuse had already died of his wound, so of the four brothers there now remained only the youngest, Prince Iware. It is recorded that, at the age of fifteen, he had been made heir to the throne, the principle of primogeniture not being then recognized, and thus the deaths of his brothers did not affect that question. Landing ultimately at Kumano on the southeast of Kii, the expeditionary force was stricken by a pestilence, the prince himself not escaping. But at the behest of the Sun goddess, the Kami of thunder caused a sword of special virtue to come miraculously into the possession of an inhabitant of Kii, who carried it to the prince, and at once the sickness was stayed. When, however, the army attempted to advance into the interior, no roads were found and precipitous mountains barred the progress. In this dilemma the Sun goddess sent down the three-legged crow of the Sun** to act as guide.

*In the Chronicles the two princes are represented as having deliberately entered the stormy sea, angered that such hardships should overtake the descendants of the ocean Kami.

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